Nov 6 2020

Piedmont Resident Urges Transparency, Hearings and Public Input before Lease of City Building at 801 Magnolia –

Nancy Lehrkind’s letter raises several questions/issues.

  • If the current lease does not expire until June, 2021, why is there such a rush to decide on the use and control of the site?
  • And why does the process at least seem to be less than transparent, with few or no public hearings?
  • And, if the West Wing building was unused 70% of the time, how can this be when such space is in short supply in the City?
  • And, who currently manages the choices of users and who will decide in the future?
  • And, who would receive the mentioned $260,000 per year which might be realized and how much financial support and space would then be available by adopting the commercial rental option?
  • And, given the passage of UU, would it make sense to defer usage decisions until the UU pool development can be coordinated with the 801 Magnolia Avenue site?

So many questions…so many reasons to have significantly increased public input. Transparency is a virtue in this case. Public hearings would be a welcomed start.

Aaron Salloway, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
4 Comments »
Nov 4 2020

– Regarding the City building at 801 Magnolia Avenue and the upcoming proposed lease to a private group by the City –

Are most residents even aware that the City Council is considering giving away control of the 801 Magnolia Avenue building with little or no notice to its citizens? Because I, for one, am very familiar with all aspects of this building, I do feel a duty to share my observations and ideas regarding its future use.

There is no question that The Piedmont Center for the  Arts has done a fine job of bringing quality live performances and art exhibits right into the heart of our town in the 801 Magnolia Avenue building. Since 2019, the Art Center no longer runs their own programs, but using the building as a “rental venue for the Arts,” they have booked many evenings of great entertainment and interesting art exhibits. These have been popular events which should continue, but control of the 801 Magnolia building needs to return to the City once the Piedmont Center for the Arts’ lease expires in June, 2021.

First of all, the Recreation Department could now make upwards of $260,000 a year of revenue for the City from bookings at 801 Magnolia based on what the Community Center brings in, plus everyone could use it.

Secondly, it was always intended that the Recreation Department could reclaim this City space after the first 6 years; that is how the lease was written. The Art Center was just the interim solution–renovating a public building with private funds at a time when the City could not do so. We raised the money, got all the contractors, managed the project – just put our heart and soul into it and kept our side of the bargain.

A simple “quid pro quo” with $1/year rent as part of the bargain! The reduced rent was NEVER a subsidy for art (See video of Council Meeting, March 7, 2011).  We stated our mission: “to promote artistic endeavors for youth within the Piedmont community,” because we felt such was lacking in our town.

Since the 801 Magnolia parcel was re-zoned in 2017 to allow for-profit commercial entities on this city-owned land, there have been many proposals about what could happen there once the current lease expires, including the best one for a commercial health club providing exercise classes, yoga, massage and physical therapy as well as nutrition services. As a center city building within walking distance of most Piedmont residents, these would be welcomed services. But I would still argue for control by the Recreation Department as the best way to ensure the greatest usage of this public building by the most residents for the highest revenue.

I would certainly not advise extending the current lease because in a dynamic community, situations change over time and the situation of the Piedmont Center for the Arts has certainly changed. Pre-Covid 19, in Calendar Year 2019, the part of the building they control (“the West Wing”) was unused 70% of the time while the other Recreation buildings were in constant use by residents for all sorts of activities. This fact, alone, should argue against continuing the lease of a prime public building to any private group with total power to decide who gets to use it and when.

It would be a different thing if the City just doesn’t need use of this building anymore; in that case, who would care? Further, as the purpose of The Piedmont Center for the Arts has now become a venue operating rentals for the arts, and it no longer “promotes artistic endeavors for youth within the Piedmont Community,” one should ask if it matters to the City, in considering a lease to them, whether this group is a nonprofit anymore.

Since the building is now zoned for commercial use, would the City allow The Piedmont Center for the Arts to operate as a for-profit entity at $1/year rent versus $260,000 revenue from Recreation Department uses or $15,000/month from a health club?

And, of course, the passage of Measure UU has changed the game in the city center, arguing against any long-term tie up of City property. These are big issues and options that the community needs a chance to understand.

With regard to a lease that doesn’t even end for another six months, it is impossible to understand the City’s rush to end all discussion, and, of course, any other options, by just giving away control to this private group.

The City should tell us, “what’s the quid pro quo of this deal” for the community? I just don’t see it! They should allow the current City lease with The Piedmont Center for the Arts to continue until its expiration in June, 2021 after which the 801 Magnolia West Wing would return to the City and Recreation Department jurisdiction.

Nancy N. Lehrkind, Founder & Former President The Piedmont Center for the Arts, Inc.

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
4 Comments »
Nov 4 2020

Hats off and praise is deserved for the thousands of Piedmonters who were involved in the Piedmont City Council and PUSD School Board elections, plus Piedmont Measures TT, increase in property transfer tax, and UU pool bonds.

Despite COVID – 19 encumbrances, residents endorsed, posted signs, mailed letters, donated to campaigns, and talked to friends and neighbors and then voted. Piedmonters once more showed a keen interest in Piedmont by participating.

Out of the 9 individuals who sought public office, five were elected – Council: Jen Cavenaugh and Conna McCarthy – School Board: Cory Smegal, Veronica Anderson Thigpen, and Hilary Cooper. 

The two City Council tax measures,  TT, increase in property transfer tax, lost by approximately 50 votes, and UU, pool bonds, was handily approved by over 2/3rds of the voters. 

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Piedmont election.

Updated election returns > https://www.acgov.org/rovresults/241/indexA.htm

1 Comment »
Nov 3 2020

The following are Piedmont election results as of 9:25 p.m. November 3.  Election results are not final until all votes have been recorded and certified.  The elected candidates are listed in the order of votes gained.  Election results are unlikely to change. 

Elected to the City Council:

Jen Cavenaugh

Conna McCarthy

Elected to the School Board:

Cory Smegal

Veronica Anderson-Thigpen

Hilary Cooper

Piedmont Ballot Measures:

Measure TT – Increase in real property transfer tax – Failed – by 31 votes

Measure UU – Pool Bonds – Approved – by over 2/3rds of voters

Updates can be found on https://www.acgov.org/rovresults/241/indexA.htm

Nov 1 2020

In these crazy times, we can’t host a coffee or ring doorbells, so I’m writing to let you know that I’ve endorsed Veronica Anderson Thigpen for the PUSD School Board, and I heartily recommend voting for her.

I have known Veronica since she moved here in 2018, and joined the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee. Right away, Veronica added a clear, articulate voice on important issues, like the proposal to have an armed police officer stationed at PHS/MHS.

Soon after, Veronica took responsibility for managing MLK Day, which showcased her great skills as an organizer and leader. The day went perfectly, a real achievement with so many moving pieces. She impressed other Committee members so much that in only her second year Veronica became PADC’s co-President. She has demonstrated excellent people skills, good judgment and a willingness to dig into complex issues in search of practical solutions.

Veronica’s background as an education and business journalist for 18 years has given her a broad perspective on education. She works now as an advisor to school systems and educational non-profits looking to build equitable, inclusive and effective organizations. She is knowledgeable, smart, energetic, and community-minded.

Veronica also has a daughter who is a junior at PHS, where she has helped to launch a revitalized Black Student Union. Her husband, David Thigpen, heads the undergraduate Journalism Department at UC Berkeley.

I hope that you’ll join me in supporting Veronica, and talking her up with your friends. When door-to-door campaigning is out, we need to find other ways to connect!

Maude Pervere, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Nov 1 2020

– Environmental Voting Guide written by Piedmonter Emily Ballati –

Things-are-Heating-Up-Guide-to-Environmental-Voting

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author. 
Oct 29 2020

The Mercury News Editorial –

Editorial: Reject Piedmont property tax hike for pool repairs

The Mercury News editorial is copied below:

“Piedmont residents tax themselves to ensure that they have the best schools and premier city government. The average homeowner pays $4,400 in extra taxes for schools and another $635 for city services.

But those taxes also drive up the cost of housing in the exclusive city surrounded by Oakland and further ensure that those with average means will not be able to crack the city’s residential market.

Voters in Tuesday’s election will face two tax hikes. Measure TT, which we have previously recommended voters reject, would increase the city’s tax on property sales to state record-high levels. Now we look at Measure UU, a $19.5 million bond proposal to pay for replacing three old community pools with two new ones. Voters should reject that, too.

Based on the city estimates provided to voters, Measure UU would add an average $263 annually to the tax bill for a home assessed at the city average of slightly over $1 million.

It a bit of a tricky calculation for voters because city officials in the ballot wording obfuscated the projected average tax rate as 2.6 cents per $100 of assessed value rather than an easier-to-understand $26 per $100,000.

It turns out that the city overstated that rate, especially for the latter part of the 30-year tax. The firmer number is that city taxpayers would collectively pay about $1.3 million annually to retire the bonds needed to finance the construction.

To put that number in perspective, the city spends more than that – nearly $1.7 million to be precise – just to cover the interest payments on public employee pension debt. Put another way, most of the pool bond payments could be covered by Measure TT, which is expected to add about $948,462 annually to the city’s transfer tax revenues.

Individually and collectively, the two measures raise a question of, how much is too much? Rather than throwing multiple tax measures at voters, city leaders need to prioritize and look for savings elsewhere.”

3 Comments »
Oct 28 2020

I would like to extend thanks to the nearly one thousand volunteers, endorsers, and donors who have come together to support the future of the Piedmont Community Pool.

Passing any measure requires a tremendous amount of effort and money to educate voters about the timeliness, thoughtfulness, and importance of the ballot initiative. Over the last few months, citizens of all ages and areas in Piedmont have volunteered to talk with their neighbors about the critical timing and benefits of Measure UU.

Over 100 donors have contributed to the campaign to provide funds to print flyers and mailers. Student and adult volunteers have spent thousands of hours making phone calls, sending emails, and distributing informational materials door-to-door. Despite the challenges of connecting in person, a comprehensive coalition of city and school leaders, community organizations, and volunteers emerged to support Measure UU. Their message?  A world-class city like Piedmont should have a local pool and all the concomitant programs (lessons, sports, programs) that serve to strengthen our community.

I especially applaud the countless volunteers who have been extra careful about reaching out to their neighbors in safe ways. To minimize direct, in-person exposure, volunteers only conducted phone calls or dropped off flyers with personally written letters detailing why it’s critical to pass Measure UU in November.

One of the most moving letters that I read was from a family that actually doesn’t use the pool at all, but understands the value of building an asset that is appreciated by their fellow citizens: old and young, big and small. Norman Rockwell could not paint a warmer picture of a shared journey.

While our broad political climate has never been more divisive, I am proud to see and say that Piedmonters continue to think and act beyond themselves, always in the best interests of our wonderful community.

Dion Lim, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 28 2020
I am supporting Veronica Anderson Thigpen for Piedmont School Board. I first met Veronica at Piedmont’s MLK Day Celebration in 2019, which she helped organize. Since then, I’ve gotten to know her even better through her work as Co-Chair of the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee.
.
In all my interactions with Veronica, I’ve been impressed both by her passion for social justice and equity and by her thoughtfulness, practical instincts and willingness to listen.
With her deep understanding of education policy, honed through her work as a journalist and an educational adviser, she has the expertise needed to help the School Board make the best decisions for our kids.
.
As an African American woman who has been committed throughout her career to fighting for social justice and inclusion, she would also bring a fresh perspective to the PUSD board on a wide range of critical issues. And as a collaborative, can-do leader, she would help PUSD translate good principles into productive, concrete actions.
We’re living in a time of unprecedented challenges but also unprecedented opportunity – opportunity to build a society that is more just, equitable and sustainable. Veronica is someone who can help us meet that challenge by taking the amazing foundation we’ve built in Piedmont and expanding its reach to make our city a more welcoming and inclusive place.
.
If you share that aspiration for Piedmont’s future, I hope you’ll join me in supporting Veronica for School Board!  
.
Sachin Adarkar, Piedmont Resident
Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Oct 26 2020

– Fire Chief Bret Black Announced His Departure from Piedmont Fire Department –

Chief Bret Black intends to leave his position with the City of Piedmont in late November after just over two years as Piedmont’s Fire Chief. He will become Chief of East Jefferson Fire and Rescue in Port Townsend, Washington.

“I have valued my time in Piedmont as part of this team,” said Black. “My fondest memories will be from the relationships and friendships among fellow employees and the community. I feel privileged to have served the residents of Piedmont.”

“The Piedmont community has benefitted from Chief Black’s time in Piedmont,” said City Administrator Sara Lillevand. “His knowledge of the fire service, particularly in the area of wildland fire has helped focus the Fire Department and organization as a whole on this important topic. We will miss his team spirit, sense of humor, and dedication to his profession.”

Chief Black’s professional firefighting career began with Skywalker Ranch Fire Department in 1997. A few years later he relocated to the Clovis Fire Department in the Central Valley. Mr. Black rose through the ranks from firefighter, engineer, captain, training officer, to battalion chief. He began work as Piedmont’s Fire Chief on October 1, 2018.

Chief Black will remain with the City until November 30th and a nationwide recruitment process for a new Fire Chief will commence immediately.

Press Release – Oct. 26, 2020